Intended for healthcare professionals


One doctor’s disability may lead to curriculum change in India

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 25 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4215
  1. Priti Salian, freelance journalist
  1. Bangalore, India
  1. pritisalian{at}

Satendra Singh’s disability inspired him to fight for others facing similar discrimination. Priti Salian reports that the physician’s plans for curriculum reform could help both patients and doctors with disabilities

Satendra Singh, 42, cannot remember walking unaided. After contracting polio at nine months old, he spent a lot of his childhood in hospitals and getting fittings for leg braces.

He remembers always being late for classes as a medical student. “It used to take me 20 extra minutes to walk across the corridors and climb a flight of stairs,” Singh, who now teaches physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, in New Delhi, told The BMJ. “Back then, I had no idea about my right to accessibility as a person with a disability,” says Singh.

But when his application for a teaching job at a medical school was rejected by a government organisation, something snapped.

“I was told that people with disabilities weren’t suitable to take on the role of teachers in medical colleges,” says Singh, who was already employed as a physician with UCMS at the time. “I was shocked, as no one had questioned my competence throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies or even as faculty in UCMS.”

Opportunities for doctors with disabilities, even in developed countries, can be limited. In the UK, for example, the General Medical Council has recently been encouraging medical educators to support disabled students.1

Singh was distraught. “I already had a secure government job, but I thought—what about others who are jobless and are screened out?” he says.

After he wrote a letter of complaint to the health ministry, the college allowed him to reapply, but he wasn’t hired. He continued, pressing the government to allow physicians with disabilities to apply for other jobs, …

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